New Heights is literally and metaphorically uplifting

Generally, when I spend several hours in the virtual Ardennes, tanks end-up ablaze. This weekend, however, I managed a rare flame-free visit. In launched-last-Friday Early Access climbing sim New Heights the only things you burn are your avatar’s over-worked muscles.

While 3D ragdoll-based clamber-em-ups aren’t a new idea, I can’t remember encountering physics and venues as truthful as NH’s before. After a sequence of interactive tutorials have spent thirty minutes teaching an intuitive movement system in which feet and hands are moved with the mouse and weight is shifted with the WASD keys, you’re let loose in a disused Belgian quarry.

‘Rocher du Casino’ hasn’t been carefully sculpted to suit beginners. It’s a real place near Aachen and Wikkl Works has captured its myriad crinkles, cracks, bulges, and buttresses using photogrammetry and drones.

The XP and stars you earn from conquering the quarry’s simpler ascents, unlocks tougher challenges, and additional areas, and, eventually, allows you move on to a new scanned locale – the ruined Crèvecœur Castle in Dinant.

Happily, the Dutch devs allow aimless vertical rambling too. If you don’t wish to make for the floating carabiners that act as autosave checkpoints, or follow the toggleable ‘climbing line’, you don’t have to.

The game’s attitude to mistakes is also pretty liberal. Fail to properly support your climber’s weight with the quality-rated hand and footholds, and a stamina bar appears. If this bar shrinks to nothing before you’ve relieved the strain on her* tired limbs, she tumbles down to the last platform-like checkpoint with nothing hurt but her pride.

* Right now there’s no male climber model

Promisingly, during none of the dozen or so climbs I’ve completed thus far, have I noticed unsightly clipping, or the bizarrely twisted and stretched limbs that sometimes blight games of this ilk. The illusion creaks a little when, on reaching the top of a cliff or wall, you attempt to get to your feet, but hopefully the same EA progress that eventually makes possible ‘dynos‘ will also benefit end of climb animations.

Reading the rock face is pretty easy at Rocher du Casino. On some sections of Crèvecœur Castle’s walls it’s much trickier – you may find yourself hurriedly mouse-scouring a section of stonework in the hope of finding a good ‘green’ hold before your strength fails. While you can treat the absorbing New Heights as a slow, relaxing puzzle game, if you get ambitious or impatient then it can quickly transform into something much sweatier and more urgent. Hopefully that ability to be both Mr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will help this unusual sim gain the popularity it deserves.

One comment

  1. Thanks for introducing this one, Tim. I had waited anxiously for Climber, Sky is the Limit for a while before the post release reviews and videos revealed all sorts of issues. This one looks much more promising for a realistic, but fun, climbing sim.

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